If I have a personal budget for a short break, how can a personal care assistant help me see my friends?

Direct Payments / Personal Budgets and Friendship

Disabled children, young people and their families are increasingly choosing to have their short breaks funded by a direct payment or personal budget, enabling families to employ their own personal care assistant. This option can offer greater flexibility and control including the chance for young people to see their friends and ensure the importance of friendship is not overlooked

The job of personal care assistant is usually only partly about the practical aspects of supporting children and young people. It’s also about inclusion, independence, values and choice, building relationships and supporting children and young people to have a friend or friends when that is what they want.

While job descriptions must essentially include a focus on the personal care needs, domestic tasks and medical requirements, it is essential that children and young people’s friendships are not neglected and that personal care assistants understand their role in supporting young people to build and sustain their friendships when this is what they want.

Families looking for an alternative to the traditional short break service model, often share their anxieties and uncertainties about taking this step. They sometimes need the ideas, support and encouragement of people who have themselves accessed a personal budget. Lives Unlimited is a family and user led organisation in York providing that support through their website:

“Members of Lives Unlimited who have their own circles support other disabled people and families to set up a circle of friends. Circles are a great way to get help you get in control of your life – whether it’s with a personal budget, direct payments or thinking about your dreams for your future”.

My son’s circle has put an end to isolation. He was excluded and lonely. I used to worry about what would happen in his future as I got older. Now he has a circle of friends, he says he loves his life.”

Circles are a great way for disabled children and young people to achieve their friendship aspirations. Include friends in their plans, identify mutual interests and start making connections. Sometimes young people will need the direct help and encouragement of their personal care assistant if they are to find new and creative ideas to make new friends, for example by getting to know those who share similar interests:

Making new friends:

Dan employs a personal care assistant to help him grow vegetables in his allotment. Dan also wanted to get to know and make friends with nearby allotment holders. With the support of his personal care assistant, Dan invited his allotment ‘neighbours’ to come and meet him and one another at a barbecue on his allotment. Now when Dan goes to his allotment, he’s likely to meet a friend to chat with, share produce and ideas.

There is a perception that families might not be insured if their personal care assistant supports their children’s friendship. In practice, the personal care assistant’s role in supporting children to go out with their friend will usually be covered by their employer’s liability insurance, although it is recommended that the insurance company is informed beforehand. There are a number of insurance companies specialising in personal support, some of which will pay for carer training.

The impact of funding constraints on short breaks services is leading to families and Local Authorities working together resourcefully and creatively to gain maximum benefit from limited budgets. Commissioning Managers are sharing examples of parents combining their direct payments in order to enable children and young people to go out together with their friends, so maximising the value each receives from their personal budget.

When personal care assistants are invited to embrace fun with friends as an integral part of their job, friendships tend to flourish for disabled young people. personal care assistants can help make the arrangements to meet with friends or support young people to do this for themselves, for example by teaching them to use face book/email or text.

Disabled children and young people benefit from person centred reviews. Personalised reviews are very popular with young people who want to regain some control over the reviewing process, which may include inviting their friends. There are many inspirational examples of young people managing their own meeting, choosing the music they will play, greeting those on arrival, deciding on refreshments, telling their own story in pictures, symbols, power point, etc.

Recruitment of Personal care assistants

Recruitment is crucial. Personal care assistants should be on board with the philosophy of personalisation, including friendship. In practice the job descriptions of personal care assistants often don’t reflect the importance of friendship in the lives of children and young people, resulting in unintended missed opportunities. The Skills for Care website is a good source of knowledge and information when recruiting personal care assistant’s.

Disabled young people have shared their own views about what they want from their personal care assistants

“personal care assistants should be bubbly, funny, nice, loyal, understanding and happy people and help me to see my friends”

“Without friends my quality of life would have no purpose, I couldn’t see the point of getting out of bed”

There are inspirational examples of how disabled young people are finding creative and imaginative ways of keeping in touch with their friends after they’ve left school or college with the support of their personal care assistant. Other young people can learn from their ideas which are affordable and could easily be replicated. Follow the linnk for Rachel’s Story.

Young people share the questions they would ask prospective personal care assistant’s at interview:

How might you help me to see my friends? I only ever see them at college.

I want to go out with my friend. Will you get to know my friend’s personal care assistant and help us to make arrangements to go out together? How will you do this?

Involving young people in the design of their prospective personal care assistant job description will help emphasis the importance of friendship. Job Description activities for young people have included the following activities:

Support to keep in touch with friends – for example, inviting friends round for a meal, BBQ or games evening (essential)

Assistance with social media technology to make arrangements to see friends regularly, and help with organizing activities with friends including swimming, music, going out for meals.